Florence Co. discusses building med school downtown

FLORENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - The city of Florence is considering partnering with other big name organizations to build a medical school in downtown Florence.

City and health experts say the $15 million project will improve health care options and the job market for the region. A study from the South Carolina Health Professions Data Book  shows the eastern region of the state is in need of more health care professionals.

"The plan is to have a graduate health science building, which just makes since. Everything contained, and it would be right next to one of the major medical centers so that there is easy access to the clinical areas, back and forth for all the health care students," said Dr. Ruth Wittmann-Price.

Dr. Ruth Wittmann-Price is the Chair of the Department of Nursing for Francis Marion University. Dr Wittmann-Price says the addition of the medical facility will give students an opportunity to work with professionals that are already working in the industry.

The City of Florence is considering investing $3 million over the course of three years into the project. In order to do this, council members are considering raising property taxes in city limits. Council members say even if there were an increase in property tax, Florence would still have the lowest tax on property in the state. City Administrators say preliminary numbers show that people who own a $100,000 home would see approximately around $25 added to their property tax bill.

Many people around Florence had mixed reactions about the possible tax increase.

"Not that I've got anything against training other doctors. If they go to some of these rural areas and take care of some of these people in these out of way places," said David Boardwine of Florence.

Dr. Wittmann-Price said having a school downtown would make Florence a destination for students across a number of health care fields. She believes many of those students would possibly stay in the region and practice their craft in most needed areas of the Pee Dee.

"The better health we can keep people in the Pee Dee Region, the better longevity they have to work and be productive citizens in the Pee Dee," said Dr. Wittmann-Price.

City Council members are expected to vote on the tax increase next week.

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